Capital Region health insurers not waiting to expand coverage

The leaders of upstate New York’s nonprofit health care plans said Tuesday they would extend coverag

The leaders of upstate New York’s nonprofit health care plans said Tuesday they would extend coverage to young adults nearly four months before the September deadline required by federal health reform legislation signed into law last month.

The new federal law requires insurers to allow students and young adults to stay as dependents under their parents’ policy until age 26.

The act will prevent such young adults from “aging off” from their parents’ policies, an occurrence that happens frequently once students graduate from college. Health insurers CDPHP, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, BlueShield of Northeastern New York, Independent Health and MVP Health Care said they will also extend coverage for individual and employer-sponsored plan customers.

Since the new legislation applies only to policy renewals after Sept. 23, insurers said thousands of people would have been caught in a coverage gap that in some cases could have lasted as long as a year while the law is implemented.

“This is the right thing to do, and it is something we can do now,” David Oliker, MVP Health Care president and CEO, said in a statement. “Realizing that this component of health care reform legislation would not be phased in for several months — after many young people lose their coverage because of their age, student status or other factors — we concluded that it was vital to close this gap and extend coverage.”

Dr. John Bennett, president and CEO of CDPHP, said implementing the measure in advance of law ensures that young New Yorkers can maintain the health care coverage needed to stay healthy.

The proactive measure also highlights the need for sustainable solutions that must take place on the local level beyond the national support for the nation’s health care system, according to Dr. Michael Cropp, president and CEO of Buffalo-based Independent Health.

“This effort by New York’s not-for-profit health plans is an example of how we can take steps in advance of the federal legislation to maintain coverage for thousands of young adults at risk of losing coverage,” Cropp said.

New York’s nonprofit health care plans insure 5 million people statewide.

The total number of young adults who will benefit from the extension is unknown, but CDPHP said as many as 2,000 of its members would be able to keep their coverage.

The total costs involved are still being worked out but will become clear as the decision is implemented, insurers say. MVP spokesman Gary Hughes said that the cost associated with the initiative is not significant.

“It is a cost we would have incurred later this year anyway, so the cost is worth it to close the coverage gap,” Hughes said.

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